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Gilbert U-238 Atomic Vitality Laboratory

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Vitality Laboratory

2023-04-30 23:14:09

Radioactive toy lab set

The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Vitality Laboratory was packaged in a personalized steel case

The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Vitality Lab was a toy lab set designed to permit youngsters to create and watch nuclear and chemical reactions utilizing radioactive materials. The Atomic Vitality Lab was launched by the A. C. Gilbert Company in 1950.

Background and growth[edit]

The equipment was created by Alfred Carlton Gilbert, who was an American athlete, magician, toy-maker, enterprise man, and inventor of the well-known Erector Set. Gilbert believed that toys had been the muse in constructing a “stable American character”, and plenty of of his toys had some kind of academic significance to them. Gilbert was even dubbed “the person who saved Christmas” throughout World Struggle I when he satisfied the US Council of Nationwide Protection to not ban toy purchases throughout Christmas time.[1]

The Atomic Vitality Lab was simply considered one of a dozen chemical reactions lab kits in the marketplace on the time. Gilbert’s toys usually included directions on how the kid may use the set to placed on his personal “magic present”. For fogeys, he pushed the concept that the units’ use of chemical reactions directed their youngsters towards a possible profession in science and engineering.[2]

In 1954, Gilbert wrote in his autobiography, The Man Who Lives in Paradise, that the Atomic Vitality Laboratory was “probably the most spectacular of [their] new academic toys”. Gilbert wrote that the Authorities inspired the set’s growth as a result of it believed the lab would help public understanding of atomic vitality and emphasize its constructive points. Gilbert additionally defended his Atomic Vitality Laboratory, stating it was protected, correct,[3] and that a few of the nation’s greatest nuclear physicists had labored on the challenge.[4]: 333–334 


Gilbert cloud chamber, assembled

Another view of equipment contents

The lab contained a cloud chamber permitting the viewer to look at alpha particles touring at 12,000 miles per second (19,000,000 m/s), a spinthariscope exhibiting the outcomes of radioactive disintegration on a fluorescent display screen, and an electroscope measuring the radioactivity of various substances within the set.

Gilbert’s unique promotions claimed that not one of the supplies may show harmful.[4]: 333–334  The directions inspired laboratory cleanliness by cautioning customers to not break the seals on three of the ore pattern jars, for “they have a tendency to flake and crumble and you’d run the chance of getting radioactive ore unfold out in your laboratory. This may increase the extent of the background count“, thus impairing the outcomes of experiments by distorting the efficiency of the Geiger counter.[5][3]

The Gilbert catalog copy included the reassurance that “All radioactive supplies included with the Atomic Vitality Lab have been licensed as utterly protected by Oak-Ridge Laboratories, a part of the Atomic Vitality Fee.”[6]

The set initially offered for $49.50[3] (equal to $560 in 2021[7]) and contained the next:[3][8][9]

A product catalog described the set as follows: “Produces awe-inspiring sights! Lets you really SEE the paths of electrons and alpha particles touring at speeds of greater than 10,000 miles per SECOND! Electrons racing at incredible velocities produce delicate, intricate paths {of electrical} condensation – lovely to look at. Viewing Cloud Chamber motion is closest man has come to watching the Atom! Meeting equipment (Chamber could be put collectively in a couple of minutes) contains Dri-Electrical Energy Pack, Deionizer, Compression Bulb, Glass Viewing Chamber, Tubings, Energy Leads, Stand, and Legs.”[13]

See Also

Amongst different actions, the equipment instructed “enjoying hide and seek with the gamma ray supply”, difficult gamers to make use of the Geiger counter to find a radioactive pattern hidden in a room.[3]


In 2006, the popular culture publication Radar Magazine known as the lab set considered one of “the ten most harmful toys of all time, … exclud[ing] BB weapons, slingshots, throwing stars, and anything really supposed to inflict hurt”, due to the radioactive materials it included (it was quantity 2 on the record; number one was lawn darts).[14][15][16]

The skilled journal IEEE Spectrum revealed a more-detailed overview in 2020, discussing the equipment within the context of the historical past of science education kits and security considerations. It described the doubtless radiation publicity as “minimal, concerning the equal to a day’s UV publicity from the solar”, offered that the radioactive samples weren’t faraway from their containers, in compliance with the warnings within the equipment directions.[11]

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists revealed a short article on the net, which featured Voula Saridakis, a curator on the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) internet hosting an in depth video tour of the Atomic Vitality Lab elements. She concluded by saying that the equipment did not promote due to its excessive value, and never as a result of any security considerations on the time.[17]

Not like A.C. Gilbert’s chemistry units, the Atomic Vitality Lab was by no means in style and was quickly taken off the cabinets.[11][16] Fewer than 5,000 kits had been offered, and the product was solely supplied in 1950 and 1951.[3][11] Gilbert believed the Atomic Vitality Lab was commercially unsuccessful as a result of the lab was extra applicable for many who had some academic background slightly than the youthful crowd that the A.C. Gilbert Firm aimed for.[4]: 334  Columbia University bought 5 of those units for his or her physics lab.[3][4]: 333–334 


  1. ^ Watson, B (1999) Hello Boys! Become an erector master engineer. Smithsonian, 30(2), 120
  2. ^ DiVernieri, R. (2008, September) “Stinks and bangs: The heyday of the chemistry set” Archived 2015-09-24 on the Wayback Machine Endeavour 32(3) p.107-110
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Watson, Bruce (2002). The man who changed how boys and toys were made. New York.: Viking. pp. 179–181. ISBN 978-0670031344.
  4. ^ a b c d Gilbert, A. C. (1954). The Man Who Lives in Paradise. New York: Rinehart. ISBN 978-0911581201.
  5. ^ “Gilbert Atomic Energy – Part I”. The Science Pocket book. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  6. ^ “American Flyer Trains”. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  7. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–current: Federal Reserve Financial institution of Minneapolis. “Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–”. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  8. ^ American Memorabilia Archived 2007-09-03 on the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Google Answers Archived 2007-01-08 on the Wayback Machine,
  10. ^ a b c Oak Ridge Associated Universities, retrieved October 6, 2021
  11. ^ a b c d Marsh, Allison (31 Jan 2020). “Fun—and Uranium—for the Whole Family in This 1950s Science Kit”. IEEE Spectrum: Expertise, Engineering, and Science Information. IEEE. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  12. ^ Lockefeer, Wim (14 Might 2007). “Dagwood splits the atom”. The Ephemerist. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  13. ^ “Gilbert Catalog Archive”. Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop. Retrieved 2019-12-13.
  14. ^ Ferrari, Paige (15 December 2006). “Pray for coal: The 10 most dangerous play things of all time”. Radar Journal. Archived from the original on 15 December 2006. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  15. ^ Ferrari, Paige (15 December 2006). “WorstTtoys: 2. Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab”. Radar Journal. Archived from the original on 16 December 2006. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  16. ^ a b Berry Drago, Elisabeth (2016). “Hazardous Fun”. Distillations. 2 (2): 8–9. Archived from the unique on 24 March 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ “World’s Most Dangerous Toy? Radioactive Atomic Energy Lab Kit with Uranium (1950)”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 2020-07-18.

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